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|Index||21 reviews in total|
As you probably already know, Jess Franco is one prolific guy. Hes made
hundreds upon hundreds of films, many of which are crap. However, he
managed to sneak in an occasionally quality work amongst all the
assembly line exploitation. "Succubus" isn't his best work (thats
either "The Diabolical Dr. Z" or "Vampyros Lesbos"), but it has many of
his trademarks that make it a must for anyone interested in diving into
his large catalog. He combines the erotic (alternating between showing
full-frontal nudity and leaving somethings left to the imagination) and
the surreal seamlessly. This is a very dreamlike film, full of great
atmosphere. I particularly liked the constant namedropping. Despite
coming off as being incredibly pretentious, its amusing to hear all of
Still, there are many users who don't like "Succubus" and I can see where they're coming from. Its leisurely paced, but I can deal with that. More problematic is the incoherency. The script here was obviously rushed, and within five minutes into the film I had absolutely no idea what was going on (and it never really came together from that point on). Those who want some substance with their style, look elsewhere. Also, if its a horror film, it never really becomes scary or even suspenseful. Still, I was entertained by all the psychedelic silliness that I didn't really mind these major flaws all too much. (7/10)
Delirious, near plot-less mood piece and if it's more LSD inspired than the Devil then we must remember when it was made! After a startling SM opening (which even itself is not what it seems) we move to soft focus and dream or imaginings or remembering . Lots of literary and cinematic references and indeed this is the Franco film that Lang himself praised. Beautiful and mesmerising the film unfolds at a leisurely pace but has a richness within each fold. A rare movie to languish within. Old Jess could make 'em when he tried. Fine central performances too including the indomitable Jack Taylor and Howard Vernon. I haven't even mentioned the Lisbon locations - ah!
I haven't seen all of Jess Franco's movies, I have seen 5, I think, and there are more than 180 of them. So maybe it's a bit early to say so but "Necronomicon Geträumte Sünden" (better known as 'Succubus', but that is the cut version) is according to me if not the best, certainly on of Franco's best. Franco is best known (although 'known' might be slightly exaggerated) for "Vampiros Lesbos", a weird cultish movie that got more acclaim in the mid 90's when people found out Jess Franco was also an interesting composer. Through the soundtrack a happy few discovered the man and found out what was to be expected after seeing the video clip of 'The lion and the cucumber' ('Vampyros Lesbos OST'): Jess Franco is an overwhelming director. When the phone rang during 'Vampiros', I let it ring. I just wanted to see more of the movie. Since that moment Franco never could grip me that much. But then I stumbled on this movie. It is even better than "Vampiros Lesbos", I think. Franco is looking for what he can do with a story and a camera. We find out he can do a lot. I certainly didn't expect to find "Necronomicon" that great: its beginning didn't impress me at all. Remember, I had seen "Vampiros Lesbos" before (although chronologically that came only three years later) and both movies kinda start the same. But then the story went on, puzzling and gripping, beautiful camera work and the stuff you would like to see Godard do if he weren't so occupied with spreading his political messages. Later on in the movie I heard a dialogue about which art was or wasn't old-fashioned. The man says that all movies have to be old-fashioned because it takes weeks before the audience sees what got filmed. But the girl replies that "Bunuel, Fritz Lang and Godard yesterday made movies for tomorrow". Janine Reynaud is an interesting lead actress and of course Howard Vernon, a Franco regular, is also there. Luckily the acting is good (something that can spoil a lot of Franco movies for you, but not this one). But certainly watch out for the dummy scene. The erotic tension, the wild directing and the fact that it's a yesterday's movie for tomorrow make it a movie a lot of people should see. The fact that it is a bit more accessible than "Vampiros Lesbos" certainly helps.
I must immediately make clear that the version of 'Succubus' I watched was
the American one with the shorter running time. I have absolutely no idea
what has been cut and how different this is from what Jess Franco originally
intended. Even so, this is a remarkable movie, and one of the most
interesting Franco movies I have seen.
The beautiful Janine Reynaud plays Lorna Green, an enigmatic erotic dancer cum performance artist who stages odd, sadomasochistic events at a nightclub. She is plagued by hallucinations (?) and begins to confuse fantasy and reality, a common Franco scenario. I have to admit by the half way point I didn't have a clue what was going on, or who was who, but I didn't mind. Plot in 'Succubus' is secondary. Atmosphere, aesthetics, babes and surreal dialogue which name-dropped everyone from Stockhausen to Spillane to Mingus to De Sade, make this movie essential viewing. Reynaud is stunning to look at, there's some tasty jazz on the soundtrack, and there's the added kick of seeing the legendary Howard Vernon, a Franco regular who also appeared in everything from Godard's 'Alphaville' to Polanski's 'The Ninth Gate'.
Beginners should check out 'Vampyros Lesbos' first, still the most satisfying Franco I've seen, but make 'Succubus' a close second. You'll see nothing like it anywhere!
The performer Lorna Green (Janine Reynaud) is a dominatrix in a S&M
show in a nightclub and lover of the producer, William Francis Mulligan
(Jack Taylor). Lorna attracts the attention of a stranger that believes
she is the essence of evil and controls her mind. Lorna has sex with
Mulligan and has a weird dream where she stabs a man with a needle in
the eye. On the next morning, she is walking with Mulligan and sees a
hearse on the road. When she glances at the corpse, she sees the man of
her dream and cries. Soon Lorna has other daydreams followed by murders
and she starts to blend reality with dreams. Soon she is confused with
her nightmares and her memories from a past life when she was a
countess. Meanwhile the stranger plots a scheme against Lorna with
"Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden", a.k.a., "Succubus", is the first movie of Jess Franco outside Spain because of the censorship in his country. This movie is financed by Germany and produced in West Germany. Considered a cult movie for many viewers, I had a great expectation but I found it boring and with a messy screenplay. My vote is three.
Title (Brazil): "Succubus"
Franco proves, once again, that he is the prince of surreal & erotic cinema. True, much of his work can be viewed as entertaining sleaze but with Succubus (Necronomicon) he shows what he is truly capable of when he lets his warped creativity run riot and gives us a film that is both hypnotic and enigmatic whilst still maintaining the delirious eroticism intrinsic in his work. Jerry Van Rooyen's splendid score pulsates as the viewer is thrown from one bizarre scenario to another as we follow the trials of a striptease artist (Reynaud) who may be schizophrenic, or may indeed (as one mysterious character states) be a devil, attempt to come to terms with the world she inhabits. A beautiful and enigmatic piece of cinema highly recommended to anybody with even a passing interest in alternative cinema.
This was an early color film for Franco but he seems to have mastered
the new process with relatively little problems, here utilizing a
decidedly Bava-esque palette (the famous scene with the mannequins, for
instance). SUCCUBUS is considered a transitional film for Franco
because, from here on in, the emphasis on eroticism will become much
more pronounced until it almost turns into pornography sometime during
the next decade. I haven't watched any films from the latter category
but this film certainly pushes the issue as far as it was permissible
at the time! Here, too, because of its dream-like nature (as was also
to prove the case later with A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD ) the
film's narrative lapses and general 'incoherence' are easier to accept
than in, say, EUGENIE DE SADE (1970) where one does not really expect
to find such liberties though I am beginning to realize that, with
Franco, virtually anything goes!
Even though he does not receive credit for writing the screenplay, it is hard to imagine that Franco had no hand in its actual conception, as the themes the film explores are certainly in keeping with the rest of his oeuvre (right from the very first scene, the sleazy nightclub act, which reappears over and over in his films). While the plot is not easy to follow (it actually pays to read about it beforehand, because otherwise it would be practically impossible to make head or tails of anything!), it copiously references noted figures from the various arts paintings, literature, cinema, music which apparently pre-occupied Franco during this period. Unfortunately, most of it is probably beyond the reach of most audiences (myself included) but I must say that I was very pleased to learn that Franco, through a line spoken in the film by Janine Reynaud, held Bunuel, Lang and Godard as the epitome of cinema three film-makers whose work is unmistakably linked (Bunuel chose film as his creative métier after watching Lang's DESTINY ; Lang appears as himself in Godard's CONTEMPT ) and all of whom clearly influenced Franco in the initial phases of his career. In particular, there is a brief repeated scene where Michel Lemoine, looking straight at the camera, describes Reynaud as 'a devil on earth' which reminded me of a similar 'gimmick' used by Bunuel in THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1962).
The film has some very striking imagery (not least of all, the two S&M scenes that were pretty much taboo at this point) with the soft-focus and often sensual dream sequences being particular highlights; another key scene finds Reynaud and Jack Taylor going up to her castle and he recounts the tale of Faustine, a Succubus, to her. But, even in this shortened version of the film, one still has to contend with banal passages like the drugged costume party sequence and other moments where the pace drops. Also, I have a quibble regarding the film's latter stages: why did Jack Taylor all of a sudden want to do away with the Janine Reynaud character (the irony of his unconsciously 'hiring' the Devil himself to do this is interesting but it remains frustratingly unexplained).
The music, as is customary for a Franco film, provides the perfect counterpoint to the onslaught of visual and narrative ideas; special care is also taken with the sound effects which are meant to illustrate Janine Reynaud's disorientation (and, with her, the viewer's). The casting of the main roles is appropriate as well: Reynaud may not rank among Franco's loveliest leading ladies but it is arguable whether anyone could have essayed the part with more conviction and, in any case, her sensual body is certainly utilized to the hilt throughout; Jack Taylor is commanding enough as her shady manager/lover; Michel Lemoine makes for a mysterious and sinister Mephistophelean figure; Howard Vernon's brief appearance is a natural, and typically professional.
Obviously, I would love to see the original full-length German-language version of the film released as a SE DVD, but one wonders whether that will ever come to pass. At least, my VHS copy was a one-up on the now-OOP R1 Anchor Bay DVD, as the film was presented in its correct (I assume) widescreen ratio! The film's silly pan-and-scan theatrical trailer (for the U.S. version) was also included.
I am fascinated by simple things: watching a 'feelgood' movie makes you
feel good, and the opposite. Yet, this simple process comes from the
most astounding mechanism, which props up every aspect of waking life.
You pick your friends this way, dream, suffer and love this wayall
intuitively, without much conscious thought.
Now turn to this film. Franco is sort of a gamble for me. He works so fast, that when cameras start rolling the thing is basically half-formed and taking shape as you watch. This is nice. I don't mean to make any excuses for what the films clearly lack, but it's an interesting way to make films, more loose than usual; what some of the best filmmakers attempt, trying to sneak up to who is really watching. It's a living experience if you can stay mindful. (by contrast to someone like Kubrick or Nolan who puts the vision first, deftly maps everything ahead of time so it reaches you lifeless)
So for me, the gamble is squeezing past the sloppy overall vision faster than you can reason. This is staying mindful, by which I mean let yourself be neither numbed nor swayed by the sex or violence or the apparent sloppiness. If you don't squeeze past fast enough, you'll be stuck behind a wall of finding faults, not a fun place to be. If you do, Franco can reward because that is the level where he starts to be intuitively interesting; the idea is to be already on the inside when he starts tethering images.
Sometimes when you get there, it's just empty fabric, but sometimes not. The point is that he can work on a semiconscious level, which is not conscious thought and most filmmakers utterly miss. This film gets there better than any of the rest I've seen.
The main premise is a woman unsure of herself and reality. The opening scene is in a dungeon where she has a couple tied up and playfully tortures them with a knife, this would be the typical Franco film you are geared to expect but we soon find it's a staged scene, pointing at fabrication. Back home, she performs a striptease for her man but he's bored and rolls to sleep. The next scene is where, dismayed, she walks out as if in a dream and wanders to a seaside castle, where apparently she has another life and a child. More. She suffers from amnesia, and later she pops with others in a party what looks like acid tabs.
This is all loosening up reality so we can get to the interesting stuff, simple entry points.
So the film is where the woman wanders around in a narrative haze of folded time, not unusual for Franco. But there's more than languid air here. Franco namedrops Godard at one point, I was reminded more of Resnais and later Raoul Ruiz, who was also influenced by Resnais.
Men approach her claiming to know her (we presume sexually), but she can't remember. Won't?
All sorts of hypnotic images intrude in her story, usually of men who pressingly ask questions about art and pop culturea Godardian 'loan'. Her man assumes the role of Mickey Spillane and slaps and interrogates her as if she's a film noir dame holding out on him. At the party, the host reads up from a book about the woman as temptress and succubus who seduces, leads astray and drains men. All this reinforces a sense of sexual guilt and suffocation.
Superficially, it's about the woman's journey through masculine perceptions of her, boring if you think of it in the Catholic context which the conscious mind of Franco was probably addressing. Superficially, this is presented to us as 'brainwashing' by her man. Bo- ring.
What's powerful about this, is wondering a bit about who or what is tethering images into a story. This is beyond conscious control of images, up to you to ponder.
From the inside of her dream, you can't separate inside from outside, images simply bubble up in some order. These images are all her own dream, gradually they take the form of violent urges, being in that story gradually she feels more impure. What is causing this to happen? What starts out as her own reverie, is it slowly polluted by these other perceptions?
Surely making out with the young girl is her own genuine urge to be apart from men, interrupted by the compulsive desire to kill. Or is it? Is it something her man would fantasize about, who she wants to please? Is she becoming the character imagined of her? Is the self fetching the images or the other way around, the images gradually acquire a self?
This right here is the level where Franco is intuitively interesting. It is that semi-abstract space of story not tainted by logical mind, involuntary memory. If you have to see only a single Franco film, make it this or Eugenie De Sade.
"Succubus" has Janine Reynaud as Lorna, a nightclub performer whose
sadomasochistic live shows attract a plethora of wealthy onlookers.
Though her shows are a success, Lorna begins to lose her grip on
reality, fading in and out of a dreamlike marathon of bizarre
encounters, images, and even murders.
As with virtually all Jess Franco films, "Succubus" suffers a serious incoherence issue the editing is at times sloppy, the pacing is languorous and sometimes un-involving, and the central premise and exposition are all but essentially forgotten within the first ten minutes. The opening scene is clear and captivating, but the audience loses any and all potential grip immediately after such is Jess Franco. With a plot that is either intrinsically unintelligible, or perhaps ingeniously molded to mirror the schizophrenic mind, the film instead offers visuals a plenty.
Sexually-charged, gaudy, and thoroughly dazzling are the aesthetics here, from the seediness of the nightclubs to the various sets and scenarios which Lorna is immersed in; there is a consistent visual flair that Franco employs which guarantees audience attention just on a surface level. The hallucinogenic nature of the film is reminiscent of adventures down the rabbit hole, albeit a bit more macabre and ten times as sexual. The stringing together of waking reality or waking fantasy is powerful on a subconscious level, as each of the images provoke without relent.
It's not difficult to see why some people can't stand the film, or Jess Franco, but there's something unusually captivating about "Succubus". Not being the biggest Franco fan, I did stumble through the film at times and I did find it dull in more than one instance, but it is a thoroughly bizarre amalgam of images and mindsets inhabited by a murderous nightclub S&M stripper/performance artist, and there's something inherently fascinating about that whether you like it or not. Even if you wanted to be bored, it's kind of hard to be. Confused? That's understandable. 6/10.
The timing was right. Art house sex films were all the rage and the
marketing in the States was simple and brilliant, taking good advantage
of punters seeking cinema kicks during the dawn of the sexual
revolution. A phone number was published for people to call who wanted
to know what the title meant. The bewildering erotic-horror element and
the hallucinatory visuals and dialogue were not what many of them
Old-timers in the Manhattan theatrical exhibition business told me it did very well at the box office. The put-downs by Canby and Ebert didn't hurt. Newspaper of the subway crowd, The New York Post, gave it a good review. The gloss of Euro-sophistication gave it a veneer of respectability that the crude sleaze of routinely shot American sexploitation films lacked. Viewers didn't feel the urge to slink out of the theater trying not to be seen.
In today's DVD and streaming world, with thousands of independent theaters now vanished from the landscape, without titillating ads in big city newspapers, Succubus-style films released today would be quickly forgotten.
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